Most Glaring Weaknesses for Every Top NBA Draft Prospect

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJanuary 8, 2019

Most Glaring Weaknesses for Every Top NBA Draft Prospect

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    Marco Garcia/Associated Press

    Even the top NBA draft prospects have glaring weaknesses for scouts to pick apart. 

    A scout's challenge is determining how much stock to put in each, plus the likelihood of that player improving over the next few years.

    We picked 12 names considered to be consensus lottery picks and pinpointed the holes in their games that may become problematic in the pros. 

Zion Williamson (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Lance King/Getty Images

    Glaring weakness: Shooting

    If there is an NBA team that doesn't have Zion Williamson at No. 1, his shooting is likely the reason. 

    Can he become a franchise star without a jump shot? Williamson is 4-of-21 from three and only converting 70.4 percent of his free throws.

    Spotting up off the ball, he ranks in the 24th percentile in points per possession, and he's made just one pull-up all season.

    Through 13 games, 75.2 percent of his offense has come at the rim. Can Williamson, at 6'7", continue to rely on getting to the basket and finishing inside for volume scoring against NBA front lines?

    He could be that outlier, given his seemingly unmatched mix of power and explosiveness. But the eventual lottery winner will be expecting its selection to become a routine, 20-plus-point weapon. Its general manager must assess Williamson's chances of improving as a shooter, plus how it will affect his game if he struggles to develop a jump shot.

RJ Barrett (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Glaring weakness: Half-court scoring

    Despite averaging 22.9 points, RJ Barrett has not been an efficient scorer against set defenses, ranking in the 36th percentile in half-court offense. 

    He's tremendous in transition, but once the game slows down, Barrett, who's in the 27th percentile out of isolation and 28th out of pick-and-rolls, hasn't been as sharp in terms of creating or making shots. 

    While capable of acrobatic finishing in the lane, he leans on it too often when attacking. Barrett is 4-of-16 on runners while shooting 48.5 percent at the rim.

    And he's made just 30.8 of his non-dribble jumpers spotting up off the ball. 

    No prospect can score in more ways than Barrett, but he needs to develop a skill or move he can consistently bank on for higher-percentage looks.

Ja Morant (Murray State, PG, Sophomore)

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    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Glaring weakness No. 1: Shooting

    Averaging 23.3 points, Ja Morant has torched defenses by exploding in transition, getting to the basket off ball screens, attacking closeouts and cutting off the ball. But he's only making 29.3 percent of his jump shots in the half court. 

    He's hitting 1.4 threes in 35.3 minutes at a 31.6 percent clip, up marginally from his 30.7 percent mark as a freshman.

    Morant's mechanics aren't the cleanest, particularly off the dribble, where he's just 8-of-33 on pull-ups. It's a worrisome number, given his ball-dominance. 


    Glaring weakness No. 2: Decision-making

    Though Morant leads the nation in assists with 9.9 per game, he's also second in turnovers, averaging 5.2. To his credit, he's forced to carry a monster workload in terms of creating offense for Murray State. But Morant can still be overly careless and ambitious with his drives and passes.


    Glaring weakness No. 3: Defense 

    Morant exerts extra energy on offense, and too frequently, he rests on defense, whether it's by jogging back or showing minimal effort to fight through screens. On one hand, he has encouraging tools and quickness to defend, at least in terms of one-on-one coverage. He's also collecting 1.9 steals per game. But Morant's occasional lack of urgency on defense won't fly with NBA coaches. 

Kevin Porter Jr. (USC, SG, Freshman)

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    Cassy Athena/Getty Images

    Glaring weakness No. 1: Shot selection

    NBA teams have only had five full games worth of USC film to study Kevin Porter Jr., who averaged 11.7 points in 21.8 minutes before suffering a quad injury. His athleticism and skill level were persuasive in that short span, however, leading to Porter's name moving up scouting watch lists and draft boards. 

    He was captivating by mirroring NBA stars with fancy step-backs and crossovers into jumpers. But some coaches might find that his shot selection includes too many hero jumpers inside the arc.

    Porter has the flash and moves, but they tend to result in lower-percentage shots with little margin for error. When he gets into the league, he may not have the freedom to dance and shoot contested dribble jumpers in the mid-range.

    Glaring weakness No. 2: Off-ball scoring

    Porter will have to learn how to score when he isn't the play's featured option, particularly early in his NBA career. The sample size was small, but he was 4-of-12 spotting up with one made basket off a cut and zero off a screen. 

    He's relied on transition and his own shot creativity to generate offense. The next step is finding ways to score within the flow of the offense off secondary actions from the wing.

Bol Bol (Oregon, C, Freshman)

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    Glaring weakness No. 1: Durability/physicality

    As one scout told Bleacher Report last week regarding Bol Bol: "The talent is there, but it won't matter if he's not available to play." 

    He only lasted nine games at Oregon before fracturing his foot. Bol has a thin 7'2" frame and long, skinny legs that lack definition. Teams will look to medical experts for their thoughts on Bol's feet and body structure regarding their potential to continuously hold up for 82-game seasons. 

    Caution signs are already flashing due to the history of big men and foot problems. 


    Glaring weakness No. 2: Defensive awareness/impact

    Even with a 7'8" wingspan and 3.6 blocks per game, Bol still left questions unanswered about his defense before going down.

    For every impressive sequence that highlighted his length and mobility, there was another that pointed out his lack of strength around the basket, suspect awareness and poor effort.

    Opposing bigs can outmuscle and move Bol with their bodies. He's also been caught flat-footed or reaching too often. There have been a number of instances that show Bol off the ball letting drivers cruise by unchallenged. 

Cam Reddish (Duke, SF, Freshman)

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Glaring weakness No. 1: Lack of assertiveness 

    Before the season, scouts recognized Cam Reddish as a top-three talent for the draft. But they've never been convinced due to a lack of assertiveness that's now followed him from high school to Duke. 

    Playing behind to two other alpha dogs in Williamson and Barrett hasn't helped. Reddish has been forced into a lower-usage, spot-up role. And in it, he's struggled mightily, unable to identify or create quality scoring chances.

    Reddish has finished with 10 or fewer points in seven of 13 games.


    Glaring weakness No. 2: Half-court offense, finishing 

    Shooting a scary-low 38.2 percent on two-pointers, Reddish has struggled to create and convert inside the arc. He's shown poor feel in terms of knowing when to drive it all the way, pull up or loft in a floater.

    He's made just 50.0 percent of his shots at the rim and zero runners.

    A glaring stat that holds up when watching film: Reddish has knocked down 41.7 percent of his unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers in the half court but just four of his 27 contested jumpers.

    He's also totaled 38 turnovers to 21 assists, and when his scoring isn't working, it can affect his decision-making and poise.  

Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga, PF, Junior)

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    Glaring weakness No. 1: Defense

    Rui Hachimura doesn't provide much defensive resistance, often due to unnecessary gambling or lack of effort in terms of the level of ball pressure. He ranks in the 17th percentile defending in isolation, having given up 35 points on 35 possessions.

    Hachimura can be easy to beat off the dribble, separate from or play through around the basket. It's also led to his sagging back and allowing his man to shoot uncontested jumpers. 

    His 1.3 steals and 0.9 blocks per 40 minutes could also be worrisome for NBA scouts who put stock into defensive playmaking and analytics. 


    Glaring weakness No. 2: Shooting range

    Hachimura has developed into a tough scorer inside the arc, making 7.3 two-pointers per game at a 61.1 percent clip. But his shooting range remains limited. After making nine threes combined through two seasons, he's now made nine as a junior, though 0.6 makes in 29.9 minutes per game isn't overly convincing. 

    His line-drive trajectory isn't built for shots beyond 20 feet. He's been excellent on short jumpers (14-of-21), but in the NBA, those won't be available as often. 

    Hachimura could ultimately have trouble establishing significant value in the NBA if he's both a below-average shooter and defender. 

Keldon Johnson (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Glaring weakness: Creating

    A reputable athlete and slasher in high school, Keldon Johnson has surprised at Kentucky by shooting 42.6 percent from three. But questions remain about his NBA upside, being a guard or wing who isn't a strong creator. 

    He's converted a combined four field goals all season between pick-and-roll ball-handling and isolation. And he's sporting a 10.2 assist percentage, showing little as a playmaker.

    His shot selection and hot shooting have led to efficient scoring. His runner game has also come in handy, as he's converted nine of 15 attempts.

    But in the half court, Johnson has leaned mostly on spot-up rhythm jumpers and straight-line drives. His current game and weaknesses suggest he'll be a future role player who'll need to continue shooting well. To raise his ceiling, Johnson must become a greater threat off the dribble against a set defense. 

Romeo Langford (Indiana, SG, Freshman)

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Glaring weakness No. 1: Shooting range 

    Romeo Langford has been one of the most consistent scorers among all the NBA guard prospects. And he's managed to stay efficient while missing 41 of his first 53 three-pointers.

    The farther out the shot attempt is, the more wasted motion he has. Langford is just 5-of-21 on spot-ups, but he's also only converted 36.8 percent of his pull-ups in the half court. 

    Langford has compensated with expert-level finishing off runners and drives, demonstrating a tremendous mix of touch on the move, body control and the ability to absorb contact. He ranks in the 99th percentile in points per possession around the basket. 

    And on a promising note, he has made nine of 12 mid-range jumpers. But to emerge as a well-rounded, three-level NBA scorer, Langford will need to work on his shooting mechanics to extend his range. 


    Glaring weakness No. 2: Explosion 

    Thankfully for Langford, he's developed a great feel with his touch shots in traffic—because he lacks blow-by explosion. Langford can't always turn the corner, which has led to contested attempts in the paint and lower-percentage pull-back jump shots inside the arc. Scouts may question how much separation he'll be able to create against NBA defenders.


    Glaring weakness No. 3: Off-ball defense

    An effective on-ball defender, Langford just has to stay more focused when his man is moving without the ball. It's not a major red flag; rather, it's a weakness he'll need future coaches to highlight. Langford has lost his man too often while ball-watching.

Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech, SG, Sophomore)

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Glaring weakness No. 1: Explosion/upside

    You wouldn't know it from Jarrett Culver's 67.1 percent finishing rate at the rim, but athleticism isn't one of his strengths.

    He happens to be crafty with his footwork and change of speed, and he does an effective job of using his length and body control to separate and convert. But without explosive burst, Culver won't have margin for error against NBA defenders, and teams must determine how much his lack of speed and bounce will hold him back as a scorer and playmaker. 


    Glaring weakness No. 2: Pull-up shooting

    Though Culver has already shown improvement as a pull-up shooter (19-of-46), the eye-test results still aren't convincing. The ball takes some time before it leaves his hands, and it can appear that Culver is aiming his shot once he's airborne. 

Nassir Little (North Carolina, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Glaring weakness: Shot creation

    Nassir Little has as many field goals off putbacks as he does out of spot-ups, post-ups and isolation combined. 

    Except for when he can tap into his strong physical tools and athleticism to score, Little has struggled to generate his own offense in the half court. His lowlights consist of times when he drove straight into a wall without a plan. And though his minutes have been limited, Little often goes long stretches without getting himself involved.

    He's still been efficient inside the arc, where he's making 60.0 percent of his shots. But at this stage, scouts will have a tough time identifying any bankable skills in Little's bag.


    Glaring weakness No. 2: Shooting range

    He hasn't looked comfortable as a spot-up shooter, missing 20 of his first 26 three-point attempts. He's hit six triples through 14 games. It wouldn't be so worrisome if he was sharper on the ball in terms of creating.

    Little has hit some encouraging dribble jumpers in the mid-range, but as a projected off-ball scorer over the next few years in the NBA, he'll need to become a bigger catch-and-shoot threat from three. 


    Glaring weakness No 3: Defense

    Little's impressive defensive tools haven't translated to effective defense. He has been easier to beat off the bounce than expected. And he hasn't provided much playmaking, with only nine steals and eight blocks all season.

    The early results suggest he's better suited to guard bigger forwards, but at 6'6", he'll have a height disadvantage against most NBA 4s.

Darius Garland (Vanderbilt, PG, Freshman)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Glaring weakness No. 1: Playmaking/decision-making

    Before suffering a season-ending knee injury, Darius Garland gave scouts a taste of his three-level scoring and shooting. But can he facilitate effectively enough to convince an NBA team to draft him as its future lead guard?

    He totaled 13 assists to 15 turnovers during his short career at Vanderbilt (assuming he won't be back). Just based on his apparent mentality, it doesn't appear he'll ever be a high-level setup man.

    Garland also doesn't make the best decisions or reads on his own drives. He's sharp pulling up, but he shows mediocre feel in the lane in terms of knowing what angle or shot to take against rim protection. Garland didn't convert a runner during his 139 minutes.


    Glaring weakness No. 2: Defense

    Lacking size (6'2") and strength, Garland isn't a stopper at the point of attack. And he doesn't offer the versatility to guard anyone other than the opponent's smallest guard.

    Garland won't be a sure-thing liability, but becoming an average defender is likely a best-case scenario.


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, and Basketball Reference.